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Boys without Names by Kashmira Sheth
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Boys without Names

by Kashmira Sheth

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It really makes my heart heavy that these poor boys have to go work in a sweat shop. The friendship bond that is made in this book is touching and they grow such a strong bond.
  Taylor_skinner | Nov 3, 2016 |
"Boys Without Names" is the story of Gopal, a young Indian boy who is forced into labor gluing beads onto frames in a sweatshop somewhere in Mumbai. But his story starts as many do in impoverished nations. His family is prey for a loan shark when their onion farm continues to bear less and less fruit. After all, if their primary source of income and food is heavily diminished due to famine, what else are they gonna do? It's not like a failing farm on the receiving end of nature's middle finger is going to get credit from a bank.

Faced with this, his family pulls a Robert Irsay and relocates from their farm to Mumbai under cover of night. Still destitute, Gopal finds a seemingly too good to be true job from a random stranger. While his family tries to stop him, Gopal is eleven and, unfortunately, has not yet developed the gifts of intuitiveness and foresight. And in this case of a bustling city filled with poverty too good to be true does not mean sending a couple grand to a fictitious African prince, but forced slavery.

It is here when we get to the reason for the title. Gopal and his fellow child slaves are not allowed to use names, an exercise in stripping personal identity, as they are, for all intents and purposes, property. However, Gopal has a certain penchant for nicknames, like "Thick Fingers", "Dimple Chin", and "Scar." The last of which really connected me to the book in a weird way since the antagonist had the same name as in "The Lion King."

These nicknames, along with Gopal telling his kahanis - stories - help the children to reclaim a sort of idtneity, while they wait to escape from their imprisonment - which it really is on a base level.

And this is probably my favorite aspect of the novel. Sheth frequently uses authentic Hindi throughout her novel. This goes from the diminutives used for family members to food. There also tends to be just random uses of Hindi words in the text. On page 135, during a tense moment, Gopal states "I am not going to be bullied by Scar's chamcha, sidekick. This seems a bit unnecessary. It seems like this was the word in Sheth's head during the writing process, so she just went with it. This isn't really a complaint, though, as much as it is an observation. I like the use of Hindi words, but they just seemed a bit unnatural at times.

But the repeated use of the word "kahani" I did like a lot. "Kahani," means story, and in the context of "Boys Without Names" is how the children reclaim their identities - by telling their stories, letting others know who they are. It might be that I'm ascribing a lot more emotion and connection to the word than the actual linguistic context would imply, but for some reason, this use of authentic language really hit me harder than I think it would have if Sheth had just used the word "story." Sometimes, the English language just can't do something justice with a simplistic one or two word translation - "Schadenfreude" for example - and this is what I felt with "kahani" when I read. Though, again, this could be me making Everest in Ireland.

I also think I was hampered by my own personal context. I read "Boys Without Names" directly after reading "Iqbal." I was so recently shocked with the life of child laborers that the impact of the book was certainly dulled. Of course, I still sympathized with the characters, but likely not as much I would have if this was a fresh concept to me. ( )
  JFinnegan | Apr 15, 2016 |
I wanted to like this book more than I ended up liking it. I've been cognizant of the fact that I needed to focus on making my list heavier on multicultural selections and I picked this one up purposely for that fact. It's about the kidnapping children for labor in sweatshops that is still rampant and the issue of worldwide poverty so I feel kind of bad thinking that it was pretty boring for the first half. I knew he was going to be kidnapped and the plot takes forever to get going. Once it does the pace picks up and it drew me in but the ending was once again pretty tidy and neat which doesn't work necessarily for me as a reader although I understand that it is targeting readers that are young and the author may not want them to be traumatized by reality.However, it's a real issue and I think the book could have used a follow up.

Curricular Connection - This would be a great book to read aloud to a class of 4th or 5th graders, especially if you were studying India or taking about sweatshops, or even if you wanted a book that focuses on the culture of storytelling or a strong male hero. ( )
  ECrowwwley | Mar 8, 2016 |
Great story about finding strength. ( )
  nickietravis | Jul 26, 2015 |
Adult Reader Reaction: Once you start, you can't put down this book. The story is gripping and enlightening. The author drops the reader into every corner of Gopal's world - from the emotions to the smells and physical conditions. Boys Without Names is a phenomenal story that every teen - and their parents - should read.

Pros: Boys Without Names draws readers into a world far from their own and awakens all of their senses.

To read our full review, go to The Reading Tub®.
  TheReadingTub | Sep 28, 2014 |
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Eleven-year-old Gopal and his family leave their rural Indian village for life with his uncle in Mumbai, but when they arrive his father goes missing and Gopal ends up locked in a sweatshop from which there is no escape.

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